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Former church-run school student renews call for government oversight

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Former church-run school student renews call for government oversight
During Thursday's question period, Love repeatedly asked Duncan if the government would improve oversight over PCA and similar schools – Dec 2, 2022

Cody Hamilton said Saskatchewan education minister Dustin Duncan’s response left him angry.

Hamilton, a former student of a church-run and government funded Qualified Independent School (QIS, was at the provincial legislature to voice his concerns.

Standing beside the Saskatchewan NDP education critic Matt Love, Hamilton said Duncan hadn’t done enough to prevent other people going through the same thing he said he had.

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“These schools, they shouldn’t be able to run as they are,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton attended Prairie Christian Academy (PCA). As Global News first reported, Hamilton alleges the person he believes was the principal called Hamilton into his office to tell him being gay was wrong.

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Hamilton, who is gay, said this took place in the fall of 2013 — during the same school year when the provincial government gave PCA more than $200,000 in funding.

During Thursday’s question period, Love repeatedly asked Duncan if the government would improve oversight over PCA and similar schools.

“This Sask Party government’s failed leadership and their choice to look the other way is hurting students, including students like Cody Hamilton,” Love said.

“Why, after hearing story after story,” Love asked, referring to allegations from students of another church-run school (before it received government funding), “is this education minister scrambling to find excuses instead of solutions to keep our kids safe?”

After welcoming Hamilton to the session, Duncan repeated what he has said previously — that prior to 2012, independent schools weren’t regulated or funded.

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Duncan then referred to regulation changes the government made last August. A statement at the time said the province would be increasing the number of unscheduled visits to all independent schools during the 2022-23 school year.

“We are working with all of our qualified independent schools currently,” he said, “to see if whether there is more that needs to be done to increase the amount of oversight.”

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In response to a previous question from Love, the minister said the government supports “the ability for parents in this province to be able to choose where they educate their children.”

“He keeps talking about a parent’s choice to attend these schools,” Hamilton said afterwards.

“But from my experience, that school and church was a cult.”

Global News previously reached out to PCA and Faith Alive Family Church, which runs it.

A statement from Faith Alive Ministries stated they are a “Christian, faith-based school entitled by law and under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to teach our students love of God out of a theological, anthropological and moral perspective derived exclusively from what we sincerely hold as Biblical truth.”

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Hamilton said having more inspections won’t make a difference.

“You can’t just approach this as “we’ll inspect every once and a while,’” he told reporters, “because when we knew inspectors were coming we’d be on our best behaviour.”

“I don’t remember (the inspectors) ever asking us questions.”

He said he did not feel comfortable telling an inspector about his sexuality.

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Global News asked for an interview with Duncan.

In a statement, and education ministry spokesperson said the government is committed to ensuring that all students feel safe, protected and respected in our schools and communities.

“The Government of Saskatchewan believes in protecting the safety and rights of all students. That includes supporting gender and sexually diverse youth to ensure they feel safe, included, and respected in schools. In Saskatchewan it is against the law to discriminate because of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Chelsey Balaski wrote in an email.

The Education Act, the statement said, provides for independent schools and parents and guardians “to educate their children in accordance with their conscientious beliefs, which may include faith-based education, and provide them with a legitimate exemption from a public or separate school.”

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